Sanders Calls Border Crossing Delays 'Unacceptable,'Invites Homeland Security Chief to Vermont-Quebec Border

Citing "deep concerns" about long delays crossing the border separating the United States and Canada, Senator Bernie Sanders urged Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to "come to Vermont and take action to put an end to this absolutely unacceptable situation."

The senator also established a committee of Vermont state and local officials, law enforcement authorities, business owners and others affected by increasing border crossing problems.

In a letter to the Homeland Security Department secretary, Sanders cited inexcusable delays of up to three hours at some vehicle checkpoints.

"While we all agree that we must secure our borders, we also need to ensure that we have in place a procedure that allows for the timely and efficient processing of customs and immigration checks," Sanders wrote to Chertoff. "The current situation is simply unacceptable."

Part of the problem, the senator added, is that at major Vermont border checkpoints some traffic lanes are closed due to a serious shortage of border patrol agents. "The resulting back up of vehicles and people has a profound effect on commerce and tourism, in addition to other economic repercussions," Sanders told Chertoff.

Border crossing problems were discussed last week at town meetings Sanders hosted in Lyndon and St. Albans, two of several Vermont Listening Sessions held throughout the state. "We have a border crossing crisis that could unhinge the Vermont economy and it's coming at us very fast," Bill Stenger, president of Jay Peak Resort told the senator.

Sanders also was contacted by a citizens committee made up of residents from the border community of Derby Line, Vt., and Stanstead, Quebec. In addition to long waits to cross the border, the letter said, "Residents from both sides of the line are being alienated and are made to feel like criminals."

The committee described "an intolerable situation" that it said "is killing business on both sides of the line." For example, what used to be a 15-minute trip to a grocery store in Stanstead now takes an hour or more. Drivers endure lines lasting half an hour or more for what used to be a two-minute trip from the Canadian town to a gas station in Derby Line.